1. Home
  2.  / The Power Of A Photo

The Power Of A Photo

A tenant photographed with a meth pipe on her chest she claimed was photoshopped by an ex-partner will have to pay the landlord more than $3,500, writes Sally Lindsay.

By: Sally Lindsay

1 April 2024

Although there was no methamphetamine test done at the Frimley, Hastings property before Rosemary Lines signed up about 10 years ago to rent the flat owned by Jeremy and Julia Carlsen and managed by Regent Realty, the Tenancy Tribunal says while it is plausible the photo was photoshopped, Lines did not provide any evidence the photo was edited, whereas the landlord provided evidence the photo had been taken inside the premises.

Regent Realty applied to the tribunal for compensation for the costs of meth testing, decontamination and further testing following the decontamination work as well as exemplary damages. Lines’ tenancy had been terminated with urgency on the basis the flat was uninhabitable.

Lines lived at the flat throughout the nearly 10 years, but her partner and child had moved out.

Before September last year, an anonymous source told Regent Realty methamphetamine had been used at the flat on multiple occasions by Lines.

The same source gave the agency a photo of Lines with a meth pipe on her chest in the flat. To back up the claim meth had been used inside the flat, Regent Realty provided a photograph to the tribunal of the curtains in the flat, which were the same as the curtains in the background of the photograph of Lines with the meth pipe.


In further evidence, Regent Realty says extensive renovation had been done in 2015 to the flat’s bathroom and laundry and levels of meth residue were found on samples taken during testing in those areas in September last year. The testing report showed the bathroom and toilet area appeared to have been extensively cleaned prior to the testing and the meth levels in those areas were likely higher prior to that.

Lines, describing herself as an exemplary tenant who did not have a criminal record, said she had never missed a rent payment and always kept the premises reasonably clean and tidy. The renovated areas had the lowest meth readings and were likely caused by cross contamination from cleaning.

She told the tribunal the photo of her with the meth pipe had been photoshopped, and the anonymous source who provided the photo was someone she had previously had a relationship with, which had turned nasty.

Lines says she had received a lot of mail for this previous tenant, which appeared to be linked to overdue accounts. She believes the tenant was responsible for the meth contamination.

Overall, the property tested positive for high levels of methamphetamine. Since then, the flat had been decontaminated. It was tested again in November and was now clean.

Tribunal adjudicator T Lee-Lewis said it is more probable than not that Lines engaged in or allowed meth-related activity at the premises during the tenancy because of the photo showing her with a meth pipe in the flat, levels of meth in the laundry and toilet being significant despite the 2015 renovation, and the high levels of meth suggesting manufacture may have been attempted or taken place in the premises at some stage.

Landlord’s Claim

However, Lee-Lewis says while it was prudent for the landlord to decontaminate the premises, the insurer has not accepted a claim for any costs associated with the work and the tenant is only liable to pay decontamination compensation if it proved that use caused damage to the premises.

“The difficulty with the landlord’s claim for compensation is the absence of a pre-tenancy test which means there may have been some methamphetamine residue present already.

“If there was, there is no way of knowing how much and therefore it is impossible to determine whether the significant damage was caused by the tenant or a previous tenant.

“It is too uncertain. I cannot be satisfied that it is more probable than not that the methamphetamine use during this tenancy included attempts at manufacture or resulted in residue of more than 15mcg/100cm2. The landlord has not proven that the tenant caused the damage to the premises.”

Based on that decision Lee-Lewis refused to award decontamination costs because the damage to the flat may not have been caused by Lines.

She was, however, ordered to pay $3,458.05 for the initial meth testing and exemplary damages of $1,200 because of her intent to use or allow the use of prohibited drugs inside rented premises, the effect on the landlord from significant decontamination costs, the interests of the landlord in that the illegal activity may reduce the ability to rent the flat in the future and public interest.

The award is two-thirds of the maximum, discounted because of uncertainty about the extent of meth use during the tenancy.


Related Articles